US Must Step Up Energy Research: Xerox Chief

The United States must ramp up its investment in energy research and science, Xerox Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns told CNBC Thursday, her comments coming on the heels of a new plan for energy innovation released this morning by a group of the country’s top business leaders.

“Today, we are overly dependent on a very complex, very brittle, very risky energy structure and we need to actually create options for ourselves,” Burns said.

As part of the “American Energy Innovation Council,” the Xerox chief, along with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt and others, will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss energy reform Thursday, the White House announced.

In her comments to CNBC, Burns was quick to note that the AEIC is not advocating for any specific alternative energy options, like wind or solar, but rather "continued research" to determine the best solution to America's dependence on foreign oil reserves.

The chairwoman also noted that despite the continuing environmental disaster surrounding British energy giant BP's blown-out Gulf oil well, the council formed “well before” the Gulf tragedy.

However, she said, "the timing does put a punctuation point on some of the messages that we are putting forward."

Among the group's chief recommendations is a tripling of federal funding for energy research to $16 billion per year. Obama has struggled to advance energy legislation; despite pushing Congress to pass a new law that would fight climate change and ramp up production of renewable fuels, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate because lawmakers in oil and coal states oppose it.

Senate leader Harry Reid wants a bill moved to the Senate floor in coming weeks but time is growing short as lawmakers turn their attention to congressional elections in November.